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Workplace Solutions | Lighting

Lighting for personal illumination and safety

My crews often work in dangerous, low-light situations. How do I select the right lighting solutions?

January 8, 2014

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Responding is Andrew Royal, president and chief product officer, ILLUMAGEAR Inc., Seattle.

Light is an invaluable tool in any construction environment. It provides the dual benefit of assisting the worker in his or her work and making the worker more visible to others. Determining the right combination of lighting solutions for your workers and the jobsite is critical to getting the job done while minimizing incidents and re-work, and maximizing worker visibility.

There are three general choices for lighting solutions: personal, task and area. Each offers a primary benefit as well as certain drawbacks. Personal lights move with the worker, offering the greatest mobile solution but with the lowest luminosity. Area lights are semi-permanent and fixed once set up, but push out the greatest power to flood an open area. Task lights fall in between, providing local lighting for a specific location or a specific task, and can be moved to another location with some effort.

Personal lights offer a solution for many indoor and outdoor situations in which task and area lights are insufficient. Indoors, personal lights aid workers in environments in which wiring for permanent lighting is incomplete, or in facilities where maintenance requires working in areas where permanent lighting was never installed. Outdoors, personal lighting will benefit personnel in large open jobsites, such as roadways, where it is cost prohibitive or impossible to deploy full area lighting across the site, or where the structure makes lighting the workspace extremely challenging, such as on telecommunication towers.

The decision to deploy personal lighting solutions also depends on the answers to a number of questions, including:

  • Is the worker moving around a lot rather than confined to a fixed location?
  • Do area and task lights end up behind the worker in certain situations, resulting in shadowing of the task area?
  • Would laying down cables to power task and area lights create unwelcome trip hazards?
  • Is the employee working in confined areas or crawl spaces?
  • Does the work include precision tasks that require a sharp eye?
  • Does the environment include tight or high spaces where task or area lights cannot reach?
  • Is the worker isolated or alone?
  • Is energy consumption a concern?

A “yes” answer to any of these can signal the need for personal lighting solutions.

For situations in which personal lighting is needed, what is the ideal solution? Developments in batteries and LEDs offer new solutions that are brighter, more efficient, and have the potential to increase the safety of the wearer.

Today’s personal lighting solutions generally are extremely lightweight with minimal power consumption. But the amount of illumination produced (currently measured in lumens or lux rather than candle power) can vary significantly. The best solution will produce the highest amount of illumination with the lowest power output. It should be a hands-free device that, once turned on, frees the wearer to work with both hands. It also should provide a means to quickly lower the power for cases in which a nearby co-worker is negatively affected by the light. And, ideally, it should provide a solution that offers the dual benefit to both see and be seen – a solution that delivers both a task light solution as well as a safety solution that actively illuminates the wearer.

If the solution you seek isn’t available today, don’t settle. Instead, push for better solutions. The technology exists today to deliver on today’s workers’ needs.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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